Capsicum frutescens

Cayenne - Capsicum frutescens (in the Solanaceae or Nightshade family)

Parts used: Fresh or dry pods with seeds.

Taste/smell: Pungent, sweet, hot.

Tendencies: Heating and drying.

Dosage: 1:1 fresh liquid extract:1-5 drops 1-4 times per day in a little water. Cayenne can be used orally, as a fomentation or wash, depending on the need, and it can be added to fixed oils, such as olive oil, for a method of external application.

Mental picture and specific indications: The mental picture of cayenne is cold, flabby, sluggish individuals, with jerking, aching muscles and stagnation in the cardiovascular system. There is exhausted vitality, especially exhaustion from mental work and poor living. The symptoms become better with heat and when eating, worse in open air and breeze.

Use: (a) Antiseptic, (b) Topical vasodilator, (c) Neural stimulant and depressant, (d) Stimulates circulation, (e) Stimulates appetite, in small doses, (f) Gargle for sore throats, (g) Diaphoretic for the first stages of a cold when the skin is hot and dry, (h) External liniment in arthritis.

Although external treatment with cayenne can cause a dose-related inflammation, chronic treatment, in small frequent doses for a cumulative reaction, causes an anti-inflammatory response.

Capsaicin, a constituent in Cayenne, causes the sensory neurons to release substance P, the pain messenger to the nervous system. After constant firing of these neurons, substance P is eventually depleted and the pain is diminished. Capsaicin has been effective for dialysis-induced itching, diabetic neuropathy, trigeminal and post-herpetic neuralgia and arthritis. Cluster headaches can be eased by applying a .025% to .075% capsaicin cream, administered via intranasal application on the affected side and reapplied in 5 minutes. Capsaicin needs to be applied a minimum of 3-4 times a day to deplete substance P. Side effects with topical use of Capsaicin or whole Capsicum are burning, stinging and redness. These reactions usually disappear with repeated application within 72 hours or less. I have used cayenne salve topically and seen the same results as produced by the capsaicin extract.

Cayenne can increase fibrinolysis when taken orally and research has shown capsaicin inhibits platelet aggregation. It is therefore beneficial for atherosclerosis and individuals prone to blood clots.

Cayenne has a protective effect on the tracheobronchial system. Capsaicin pretreatment can reduce vascular permeability and edema caused by histamine, bradykinin and cigarette smoke. It can also decrease bronchospasm and pulmonary airflow obstruction induced by aerosol histamine. Capsaicin given short-term and long-term, as a pretreatment can activate antioxidant enzyme systems and stabilize lung membrane lipids. This protects against edema and lipid peroxidation caused by gaseous lung irritants. Capsaicin has been shown to inhibit the growth of the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori which is associated with gastric ulcers. Cayenne contains capsanthine, capsaicin and is high in vitamin C.

Contraindications: Cayenne has been contraindicated in persons with duodenal ulcers due to its stimulation of stomach acid. However, one study found no difference in the healing rate of duodenal ulcers in patients who ingested 3 grams of Capsicum daily compared to untreated controls. External use is contraindicated in areas where the skin is broken. Use with caution in pregnancy. Co-administration of Cayenne and theophylline may increase the theophylline levels. Capsaicin may cause or exacerbate coughing associated with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.

Copyright 1999 by Sharol Tilgner, N.D. (ISBN 1-881517-02-0) - all rights reserved.